Ring of Waves

David Nolan Gallery, New York, 7 May – 28 June, 2013.

‘David Nolan Gallery is pleased to present its 8th exhibition of work by the celebrated Scottish artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006). On view from May 8th until June 22nd, the exhibition focuses on an array of the artist’s “maritime” works. The sea, together with the vessels that venture upon and qualifiedly domesticate it, is a theme that has coursed through Finlay’s work since his earliest poems, cards and artist’s books of the 1950s and ‘60s. The works gathered here span five decades.

Among Finlay’s abiding preoccupations is the relationship between written language and image, between a text (a word, a phrase, a bit of signage) and its both literal and figurative contexts. Finlay, who began as a writer, experimented ceaselessly with ways of generating, inflecting and provocatively destabilizing verbal meaning through the manipulation of written language’s physical properties: i.e, through the often witty play with typography, color, composition, scale, materials. By the early 1960s, Finlay had gained a reputation as one of Britain’s foremost practitioners of Concrete Poetry, yet he had also become increasingly interested in securing for his “poems” greater gravitas, in equipping them with both an irresistible physical presence and a far-reaching metaphoric range. Finlay’s early love for making toy boat and plane models provided a key, and his poems – his poems’ language – moved from the page onto wood, glass, plexiglass, tile, metal, stone and eventually onto (and into) the landscape, or Nature, itself. (Finlay’s famous garden Little Sparta, a life work, can be perceived as one sustained, sensuous, “concrete” poem.) The allusive range of Finlay’s poems, or “poem-objects,” likewise stretched outward from the immediate here and now to the farthest edge of the ocean’s or heaven’s vastness and, temporally, to the earliest nature philosophy of the Pre-Socratic Greeks. (One of the Ship’s Bells exhibited here makes tongue-in-cheek reference to the Pre-Socratic concept of a harmony of opposites).’ 

Further information is available here.